Since you're here, we assume that you're considering contacting a New Jersey birth injury lawyer about a potential claim. If that's true, there are a few things you should know about us:
- We offer free, no obligation case reviews. If you think you have a birth injury claim, you have nothing to lose by speaking to us about your case, and much to gain.
- We work on a contingency fee basis. If you retain us to handle your claim you pay us nothing out of pocket.
- Time is limited. Your birth injury case must be filed by the child's 13th birthday.
Not ready to talk to one of our attorneys? No problem. We invite you to keep reading to gain a better understanding of what it means to have a birth injury claim in New Jersey.
About Birth Injuries in New Jersey
Birth-related injuries are devastating. When you've been looking forward to the birth of your healthy baby, it is heartbreaking to realize that something has gone wrong.
Birth-related injuries are especially confusing because it can be unclear who is at fault. As parents, you may develop a close, personal relationship with your team of doctors and nurses. This relationship can make it even more heart-wrenching to know that one of them may have done something wrong.
If your child has suffered a birth-related injury in New Jersey, it's essential to get all of the facts. You may be facing additional medical bills and potentially a lifetime of treatment for your child. Pursuing financial recovery from the parties responsible might be a necessity, and it’s what you and your child deserve.
Our dedicated and compassionate attorneys have experience dealing with doctors, hospital staff, and insurance companies. Read on to find out how we may be able to help you.
Common Birth-Related Injuries
Birth injuries come in many forms and degrees of severity. During childbirth, infants can suffer physical and neurological injuries, both acute and chronic.
Injuries can also result from problems with prenatal and postnatal care and treatment.
Common injuries include bone fractures and contusions. Less common injuries include several types of brain damage, paralysis, and even death for the child, the mother, or both. These are some of the most common and most damaging physical and neurological injuries related to childbirth.
Neurological injuries that occur during labor and delivery often result from hypoxia, a decrease in the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the baby's brain. Several circumstances can cause severe oxygen deprivation, including umbilical entanglement, during which the umbilical cord wraps around the neck and restricts the flow of oxygen to the baby's brain.
If obstetricians do not detect umbilical entanglement and take steps to address the situation, such as administering labor-inducing drugs or performing an emergency C-section, the delay in delivery can exacerbate hypoxia. This can result in anoxia, the absence of oxygen, thereby worsening the extent of brain damage.
One of the most common neurological injuries related to the childbirth process is cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a neurologically triggered movement disorder. This condition can develop due to a variety of reasons, such as the result of hypoxia or anoxia during birth. When oxygen flow is insufficient to the baby’s brain, damage can result in the areas that govern cognition and physical movement.
Children with cerebral palsy can suffer from inhibited motor function and development as well as problems with sensory and cognitive development.
This condition can present a variety of symptoms, including:
- Breathing problems,
- Spastic, involuntary movements,
- Gait abnormality,
- Postural problems,
- Lack of bladder or bowel control,
- Trouble swallowing,
- Speech difficulties,
- Sensory impairment, and
- Learning disabilities.
Depending on how severe the child’s condition is, it could potentially affect their life for years or decades. Some victims of cerebral palsy and other birth-related injuries are able to navigate everyday life with minimal assistance.
Unfortunately, many victims spend their lives unable to walk, communicate, or care for themselves in any way.
Unfortunately, this condition strikes many families in the U.S. according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 323 children suffer from this condition. The cost of care ranges well into the millions of dollars for many families.
Birth-related injuries such as oxygen deprivation can also arise from complications due to shoulder dystocia. This is a condition sometimes observed in babies situated in a breech position inside the womb.
Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby's passage through the birth canal is impeded. In shoulder dystocia, the infant's shoulder gets caught on the mother's pubic bone.
An obstetrician can perform maneuvers to dislodge the stuck shoulder. However, failure to employ these techniques, or failure to execute these manipulations in a timely fashion, can prolong the amount of time the baby remains in the womb.
This delay in labor and delivery may result in brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. A physician who does not immediately induce labor or order an emergency C-section when the baby might be in danger can be liable for a medical malpractice claim.
Other Physical Injuries
In addition to oxygen insufficiency, an infant can also suffer a wide array of physical injuries. Doctors may treat shoulder dystocia in a reckless manner. A physician's forceful manipulations can cause the following:
- Clavicle fractures,
- Humerus fractures,
- Vertebral damage,
- Spinal cord injuries, and
- Brachial plexus injuries.
Some of these injuries can occur if the doctor exerts excessive pressure. This would happen if the doctor pulls the baby's head or jerks the baby's neck to one side.
Brachial plexus injuries occur when nerves located in the region of the neck become excessively stretched or torn. This hinders the transmission of neural impulses from the spinal cord to the shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands. This restricts the baby’s movement.
Erb’s Palsy, also known as Erb-Duchenne palsy, is a particularly serious condition that can occur due to brachial plexus injuries in childbirth. Erb’s palsy is a form of nerve damage that occurs near the neck, at the upper end of the spinal cord.
This damage occurs when the baby’s neck stretches too far during the birth process. This condition is characterized by symptoms such as numbness and weakness of the arm and, in some cases, total or partial arm paralysis.
In some cases, infants can be treated successfully with physical therapy but children are often left with permanent injuries. In other cases, however, your baby might require surgery or suffer severe complications.
Surgery is not always successful in helping the child recover sensation, mobility, or strength in the affected arm. The baby’s arm might also fail to grow with the rest of the body, potentially affecting your child’s physical and emotional health.
These are just some of the potential injuries that can occur during childbirth. In fact, both babies and mothers can suffer significant injuries during the childbirth process, due to the actions of doctors, nurses, medical staff, and others. Many of these injuries can leave you and your child facing a lifetime of challenges and difficulties.
When professional negligence causes childbirth injuries, you could have the right to pursue legal action and recover compensation through a medical malpractice action.
Even if your baby sustained a different birth injury than those discussed here, contacting a New Jersey birth injury lawyer can help you understand your options. A birth injury attorney can evaluate the details of your case and help you determine the best course of action for holding the at-fault party responsible.
NJ Birth Injuries Can Be Medical Malpractice
Other birth injuries caused during labor and delivery that may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit result from iatrogenic trauma to the baby. For example, a physician might attempt to expedite the delivery by using obstetric instruments.
IMPROPER APPLICATION OF OBSTETRIC TOOLS
A physician might attempt to expedite the delivery by using obstetric instruments. The improper application of tools such as vacuum extractors and forceps might inflict harm to the baby’s head by causing brain hemorrhaging (bleeding). A surgeon might also cause damage while performing a C-section if the baby is accidentally cut when an incision is made in the mother’s abdomen.
FAILING TO PERFORM A C-SECTION
There are some situations where performing a cesarean section (C-section) is necessary to avoid specific complications. If a doctor chooses to deliver a baby vaginally when the general medical standard of care would be to do a C-section, this may be malpractice.
For example, if the mother has an active infection, such as herpes or HIV, a C-section is generally recommended. If a doctor fails to perform a C-section, the child may contract the infection. Another situation where a C-section may be necessary is when the baby is breech. A vaginal delivery attempt instead of a C-section for a breech baby may lead to the child's death during delivery.
FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY MONITOR THE FETUS
Doctors are expected to provide reasonable fetal monitoring during pregnancy and birth. If a doctor does not detect a problem due to inadequate monitoring or does not adequately respond to a problem, they may be responsible for malpractice if an injury results.
For example, a lack of monitoring may lead the physician to miss critical indications that the unborn child suffers from a lack of sufficient oxygen or blood flow to the child's brain. Either of these may cause cerebral palsy, stemming from brain damage.
NOT TAKING ADEQUATE CARE DURING DELIVERY
Poorly maneuvering a vaginal delivery can cause the baby's clavicle to break.
A vaginal delivery during which the physician fractures the child's clavicle can cause Klumpke Paralysis. This is a condition with the potential of lifelong weakness or loss of movement of the lower arm and hand for the child.
Parents may not be able to detect all birth injuries immediately, but signs may become more apparent as the child grows. For example:
- Cognitive and motor deficits,
- Difficulty with speech production,
- Developmental delays, and
- Visual or auditory problems.
These signs might indicate that the child has sustained a brain injury.
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Who Has Claims for Birth Injuries?
Although birth injuries are more common in babies, sometimes the mother may also have a claim. For example, if the doctor failed to notice the mother's health deteriorating during delivery, and this led to injuries, such as a seizure, the mother may have a claim.
If a child sustains injuries, the parents may also have a separate claim for pain and suffering.
Who Can Sue for New Jersey Birth Injuries?
In the state of New Jersey, parents can sue on behalf of their minor child for birth-related injuries. Children can also sue for medical malpractice after reaching the age of 18.
If you believe your doctor's action or inaction caused your baby's injury, it's essential to speak to an experienced lawyer right away.
Why Should I Seek Recovery Through Settlement?
Children with birth injuries often require:
- Ongoing, costly medical care,
- Physical therapy,
- Occupational therapy,
- Specialized equipment,
- Education assistance, and
- Cognitive therapy.
Taking care of a child injured by a physician's negligence is difficult and costly. A settlement can:
- Provide you with funds to give your child the best care possible to meet the challenges caused by their birth injury(s); and
- Make medical professionals aware of and responsible for the gravity of their breach of duty.
You cannot turn back the clock and keep the injury from happening. But you can get the compensation your child deserves and hopefully prevent this from happening to another innocent child.
Which Parties Can Be Liable for Birth Injuries in New Jersey?
Birth injuries are incredibly complicated situations. Although usually there is one primary obstetrician, there is often a whole team responsible for delivering the baby.
Any of the following parties may be liable for your child's birth-related injuries:
- Hospitals, and
- Emergency medical teams.
It can be difficult to ascertain which party’s conduct caused the injury. That's why it's critical to speak to one of our attorneys right away so that we can start investigating your claim.
Who Pays the Settlement?
In the United States, doctors are required to have medical malpractice insurance. Physicians in private practice, attending physicians in hospitals, and even residents and interns all must be covered by malpractice insurance.
It is almost always this insurance that pays the settlement in a birth injury case.
What Is the Average Settlement in a Birth Injury Case?
There is no typical birth injury case. Every situation, baby, and injury is different. Therefore, there is also no average settlement amount. The settlements range from thousands to multi-millions of dollars. The settlement amount will be based in part on the:
- Severity of the injury to the child;
- Impact on the quality of life of the parents and child;
- Cost of immediate and future expenses (medical, educational, etc.); and
- Degree of recklessness, carelessness, or straying from the professional standard by the physician.
An experienced birth injury attorney can evaluate the circumstances as a whole and determine a fair settlement amount to pursue. The sooner you contact a lawyer after the birth, the better.
How Will I Be Able To Prove Liability?
Many parents worry about the difficulty of proving liability in cases of birth-related injuries. While it can be challenging, this is where our team can help. Proving liability only factors in when a case goes to a jury.
If your case settles, it will simply be a negotiation between the parties. It’s always our goal to get our clients the money they need as quickly and efficiently as possible. You are in charge of whether or not you take any offered settlements.
If the case does go to trial, the plaintiff will need to show negligence. To prove negligence in birth-related injuries, the plaintiff must show that the physician or other defendant deviated from the acceptable and expected standard of care.
To illustrate this, medical experts are brought in to talk to the jury. The court must hear that the doctors or medical team in your case didn't act as other doctors or medical teams would have.
Our experienced attorneys can help guide you through every step of the process.
What Happens in a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
A birth injury lawsuit generally begins as soon as you discover your baby's injury.
Your first consultation with an attorney will be to discuss the injury, how your pregnancy and delivery went, and the current health of your child.
Your attorney will then begin to gather evidence. This process usually involves obtaining all relevant medical records, including yours and your child's, from your pregnancy until the present.
If your lawyer believes that you may have a claim, you will discuss how you wish to proceed. Often, attorneys will start with a demand letter asking for compensation from the responsible party.
Sometimes, demand letters lead to the other party offering a financial settlement amount. If the settlement amount is something that you think is fair to cover you and your child's needs, this may be where it ends. Litigation is generally not the preferred method of obtaining recovery because it can take a long time and a lot of emotional energy.
However, if the demand letter didn't produce a favorable response and settlement negotiations don't work, the case may be taken to trial. The litigation process will involve more fact-gathering, as well as retaining expert witnesses in the medical field to discuss what should have been done for your child versus what the doctor and medical team did.
Sometimes settlement negotiations will begin again after fact-gathering and interviews. If not, the case will be tried. Your lawyer will argue the case to try to obtain the maximum amount of compensation for you and your family.
New Jersey's Birth Injury Statute of Limitations
If your baby has suffered a birth-related injury, unfortunately, you have a limited amount of time available to make a claim. Like other legal claims for personal injury, birth injuries have a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the amount of time in which a claim must be started before it is barred forever.
In general, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in New Jersey is two years from the date the injury occurred, or two years from the date the patient became aware, or reasonably could have become aware, of the injury.
Many babies may not seem injured within two years of the date the injury occurred. Therefore, medical malpractice claims allow special timelines for injuries the parents may have become aware of later.
In birth injury cases specifically, the baby's injury could become apparent only many years later. That's why in New Jersey, the birth injury case must be filed by the child's thirteenth birthday.
Although there may be several years available to bring a birth injury lawsuit, you should pursue your claim as soon as you become aware you may have one. Staff changes at the hospital, as well as shifting medical records, may make financial recovery difficult in the future.
Not only that, but bringing a claim sooner may allow you to recover monetary compensation that could be critical to your child's recovery and quality of life. As soon as you think you may have a claim, contact an experienced attorney right away.
How Can a New Jersey Birth Injury Attorney Help?
A birth injury attorney knows the process of seeking financial compensation in and out. A caring, knowledgeable attorney will not only be able to pursue legal claims on your behalf, but they'll be able to help you and your family through this difficult time.
Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.
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Discuss Your Case with Our Birth Injury Attorneys Today
The law firm of O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble has significant experience handling cases involving birth injuries resulting from perinatal negligent care. If you suspect that your loved one sustained a birth injury due to an error committed during labor and delivery, you may be entitled to receive a just settlement. The firm’s experienced team of attorneys will analyze medical records with the assistance of expert medical professionals to determine if a hospital, physician or nurse violated standards of care and committed an error resulting in irreversible brain damage or other severe injuries. Contact us online or call (908) 928-9200 for a free no obligation consultation.